When Reneé Moody was a teenager in Jersey City in the 1970s, she had a special place to hang out.
“It was called the Teen Post on Bergen Avenue and Forrest Street, and it was where teens went after school to hang out with our friends,” Moody said.
Now Moody, as an adult, is opening a structured, safe haven for today’s teenagers.
The MBL Teen Center is scheduled to open next Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Miller Branch Library of the Jersey City Free Public Library system on Bergen Avenue, where Moody is the branch manager.
The center will have three rooms on the second floor: a computer room where teens can play educational games, a room for doing homework and for studying, and a third room for performances, lectures, and educational programs.
The center came out of Moody’s conversations with parents who visit the library and lament about not enough places in the community for their teenage sons and daughters to engage in productive activities.
She also cited the alarming number of pregnant teen mothers she sees in Jersey City.
“I wanted to give the teenagers in the area a space to learn but also have fun,” said Moody, who is also the mother of a teenage daughter. “If they don’t have a place where can they find structure, they will engage in negative activities.”50 to 60 teens in library
The center is for the use of teens ages 13 to 18. It will be open during library hours except during the school year, when the center will be open only after school closes.
Moody said that at the most, about 50 to 60 teens use the library on any given day.
The center is financed through the Public Library’s Young Adults grant, but the library will pursue other grants in the future to maintain the center. ‘My space, your space, our space’
The teen center, while created by an adult, will see much of its input and operation from the young adults for whom it is intended.
According to Moody, there will be a Teen Advisory Board, or TAB, with TAB members responsible for developing rules to govern the Teen Center.
The board will be comprised of students that are achieving a B at school, or higher grade average. They will meet bi-weekly to discuss programs and ways to help others.
And there will be 11 ground rules for teens to follow in the center, including no cell phone use. Job training for parents who volunteer
While Moody said teens are being sought for the advisory board, they are also looking for parents to volunteer their time to help out the center.
She said there will be benefits to the parents.
“Those parents who are not working, we look to help them identify and explore the skills they need to re-enter the workplace,” Moody said. “I think parents and teens have to be open-minded and have some kind of bonding.”
Moody said she has received nothing but “positive feedback” from the patrons and other people, both young and old, who have found out about the teen center.
Library Director Priscilla Gardner said, “I know without a doubt that this Teen Center will be successful and a beacon in Ward B and all Jersey City.”
And Moody has gotten commitments from various local organizations such as Jersey City Coalition That Cares, Team Walker, and Free Teens wanting to use the space for teen-related programs.
She is also reaching out to the Jersey City Board of Education to let students of Lincoln High School, and Schools 12, 17 and 39, all in close proximity to the library, know about the new teen center.
Moody thinks the impact of the center will be immediate but lasting.
“The motto of the center will be ‘My space, your space, our space’ and we hope to see that everyone benefits,” she said. Comments on this story can be sent to email@example.com